Grand Strand mom hopes a new Christmas gift tradition will replace toys with experiences

Grand Strand mom hoping new Christmas gift tradition replaces all those toys. (Summer Dashe//WPDE)

Melissa Byers got into blogging when she moved to Myrtle Beach more than a decade ago. She says she didn’t know where to go or what to do with her kids for quality fun, so she looked to the internet for clues. When she didn’t find any blogs or websites outlining things for kids in the area, she decided to create her own.

Byers founded the blog five years ago, but she’s been a writer most of her life. She also contributes to

She said she now considers writing her career.

“It allows me to go out and have great experiences with my family and then write about it,” Byers said.

In a recent blog post, Byers wrote about ten different attractions on the Grand Strand. She suggested getting and giving gift cards or tickets to area attractions as gifts instead of toys or material items.

“That allows your family not to collect more stuff during the holiday season, because we all have playrooms and bedrooms and play areas full of things our kids don’t touch, and this would allow your family to have fun throughout the year,” she said.

Byers said she has a 12-year-old and a 13-year-old, both girls who she said have old toys that have taken over part of their house.

“We have a ton of American Girls and we used to love those and we got tons of stuff there,” Sydney Byers, age 13, said.

They key word is “used”--they used to love those. Mom said she has had enough.

“It’s ridiculous. We’ve sort of started clearing out some of the bigger items, like a Barbie Dollhouse, but prior to now, it’s been insane and, again, it’s filled with things that they don’t even play with very often, so it’s just wasted space, and, honesty wasted money," Melissa said.

We asked Byers what she thought of the latest toy craze, Hatchimals, which are small, furry, animals stuffed inside an egg. If the child plays with it according to the directions, the egg hatches and the child has the animal inside to play with.

“Hatchimals are huge. People are selling them for ridiculous amounts of money. They’re difficult to get and I promise you by February that Hatchimal’s going to lose its flair and it’s going to be at the bottom of the toy bin, so it’s super fun for Christmas morning, but in a few months it’s just not going to matter to your child at all," Melissa said.

Hatchimals have been selling out at stores across the country.

They are being sold on sites like Ebay for hundreds of dollars. People even lined up overnight in freezing temperatures at a Target in Myrtle Beach recently, when it was announced a limited number of Hatchimals would be sold there. Many parents have said, though, that it is worth it to see their child light up the moment they open it on Christmas morning.

“Imagine that you get a season pass to a waterpark for Christmas and you have from May until the beginning of September to make memories with your family," Melissa suggested.

The innovative mom's idea is rubbing off on her kids, too. Twelve-year-old Rachel Byers said her favorite gift of all time was event tickets.

“Last year, our mom surprised us with the Disney World bands,” Rachel said.

Her family has also received season passes to a Grand Strand waterpark for Christmas. Both Melissa and her two children agree it was one of the best gifts they’ve received.

Many of the girls’ friends had also received passes to the park, so several families went.

"You have an entire summer's worth and that's them making memories, that's pictures, that's videos, that's social media posts. It's going to mean a lot more to them than a Hatchimal on Christmas morning, which is going to be boring by February," Melissa said.

She said this year she is hoping for annual passes to Brookgreen Gardens or the zoo. She said those are both places the whole family likes to go.

She suggested designating part of your Christmas gift budget to season passes and tickets instead of toys. She also suggested asking close family members, like grandparents, to buy the gift of experience instead of items.

“The waterpark is a place that I’ve been a little bit stingy with, because it’s so expensive during the summer and it’s a one day hit, so when the girls got that waterpark pass for Christmas, they were thrilled and we used it way more. We definitely got the money’s worth out of it, for sure," Melissa said.

Melissa's blog post has received mostly positive feedback, she said. Other families have even contacted Byers with delight over the idea of getting and giving experiences rather than the traditional toys.

“There’s been a reaction of like, you know, 'Amen!' really, because parents get it. I mean, it’s fun to have a huge amount of presents under the tree, but they also recognize--and I think kids are beginning to recognize, too--more stuff sometimes, is just more stuff and when you can have an entire year of fun at an attraction the aquarium, the state park, alligator adventure, any of them, they get it, that those times together really are valuable and fun," Melissa explained.

It’s not just events, either. Byers suggested buying gift cards for family-friendly occasions, like ice cream or Starbucks.

“It’s a time that, when my kids say, 'Hey mom, can we go do this, or can we go get this ice cream," I don’t have to say "no," I can just say "yup, let’s do it, let’s go enjoy it." I’m not worrying about if you get extra toppings or the large size, because we have it covered and we can just enjoy it," Melissa said.

Byers also has an announcement, or shameless hint, for her husband and any family friends watching or reading.

“If anybody’s watching that I might know, such as, I don’t know, my husband, spa gift cards would be top of the list, followed by Starbucks," Mrs. Byers said.

Her kids, too, are hoping for more gift cards and tickets this year.

"You really get a good time out of them and it's fun to spend time with our family,” Sydney said.

Her younger sister agreed.

“And I liked when we got the waterpark passes because it lasts longer than, like, a gift, like you get to do it multiple times a year,” Rachel said.

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